On our recent trip to Vietnam, Craig and I wanted to show the kids the traditional way of getting around in a cyclo. We had been on a cyclo Saigon tour back in 2003 when we were in Vietnam for our honeymoon and were really excited to do it again with the kids.
Craig and I thought it was a great introduction to a new town when in 2003 we had a cyclo Saigon tour on our first day. This time with the kids we decided to do it on our last day right before we headed for the airport to come home. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do it that way, it was just where it fit into the itinerary as we only had 4 days in HCMC.
I found out when booking that these cyclo Saigon tours are being fazed out due to traffic congestion and that they have already been banned from a number of the busy roads in HCMC. This made me more determined to do it as it might be the last opportunity the kids will have to experience it. I did notice on this trip that there were a lot less bicycles on the road and a lot more motorbikes and cars. I was surprised to see a large increase in luxury vehicles as in 2003 there were very few/none.
Doing a food tour on a cyclo is also a very popular option when visiting HCMC. Vietnamese street food tours are becoming increasingly popular in Hanoi and HCMC. Craig and I did one on our first trip to Vietnam and I have to admit that the street food in Vietnam is exceptionally good. Vietnam is unbelievably affordable and you can easily get change out of $5 for a meal from a street vendor.
On this occasion I booked the tour through the tour desk at our hotel, Signature Saigon Hotel. The lady on the tour desk told me that it’s very important that you book your tour through a reputable company as it is dangerous to negotiate with them on the street as when you return the price will be somewhat more than you had agreed upon at the beginning. Its one of the current scams and one that tourists are regularly getting caught out on.
We went through a company called CycloResto and they were fantastic. Our tour was a 2 hour Saigon tour of District 1. The tour cost $12USD (270,000dong) per cyclo. We had 3 cyclo’s Craig had one to himself, I had one with one of the little ones on my knee and the other 2 kids were on the third. The little ones swapped over when we had a rest stop at the Buddhist pagoda. I know that this is expensive compared to negotiating out on the street but for what we paid I was more than happy.
Total price: $36USD 820,000dong $50AUD
We even gave our cyclo drivers a very healthy tip, especially Craig’s. These guys work hard and I was more than happy to pay the requested price for 2 hours of entertainment.
The Cyclos picked us up from our hotel, we jumped straight on the front with our drivers behind and off we went touring around District 1. The tour took in a number of sites, first past Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office, the Flower Market, the Animal Market, Chinatown and we stopped for a break at a Buddhist Pagoda. We had previously visited a few of these places on our independent Walking Tour of District 1 a few days before.
The most amazing thing about the cyclo tour is being out on the road in amongst the traffic. Its scary, nerve racking and exhilarating all at the same time. You feel like you are part of the craziness, that is HCMC traffic. I took a bit of video which I am hoping I can upload, you can hear by the tone of my voice how I’m feeling! There’s a couple of high-pitched pieces commentary in a few places!
The cyclo’s are really restricted where they can take you now as they have been banned from many of the busier streets, they do visit most of the main attractions in District 1. I had not been through Chinatown or the Flower Market before and the local people were very excited to see my kids in the cyclo’s. Many people took the time to stop and wave at them.
The weather was muggy and sultry the morning we had our tour. It started to rain just before we headed back to the hotel. we were about 90mins into the tour but the kids had pretty much had enough anyway. I was happy to head back because it looked like the rain was really going to come down. We got back to the hotel just in time and as it was the day that we were leaving I was happy with that we had seen and the kids had a lovely experience.
The kids loved it, especially when they were in the cyclo together without Craig or me. I, on the other hand, was holding my breath in a couple of instances! Especially when Caelan had his arm hanging out the side and motorbike rider were riding past giving him a high 5!
The Vietnamese are extremely friendly people and they were stopping in the streets to wave at the kids. Mind you the kids were screaming out ‘Xin Chao’ to everyone, which means ‘Hello’ in Vietnamese. We went at 8am in the morning so we were in the traffic with all the kids going to school and off to childcare so there were plenty of kids to wave at and my kids loved being out with them. Caelan in particular was very excited as he was first up going with Alannah and he thought we was very big riding alone.
I’m very happy we were able to do this and I think it will be something the kids will always remember. I will also be sad to hear if and when the day comes that people will be unable to experience this for themselves. I’ve been lucky enough to have this experience twice. I will no doubt do it again if we head back to Vietnam any time soon.
While in HCMC we found quite a few other family friendly activities including, Cu Chi Tunnels where the kids will get a good understanding of how the VietCon won the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese Water Puppets which gives a little bit of history in the rice paddies with puppetry. A Mekong Delta tour which takes you around and shows you life on the river.
We found Vietnam to be a wonderful place to take the kids, a good place to start introducing new and different foods and the local people are ever so friendly and kind towards the kids. Even though this was my second visit, I know it’s not my last.
Sal & Co.